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Letter: Criticizing Kanders donations is self-righteous, misses point

To the editor:

I was disappointed to read the letter to the editor, “If the Sacklers must go, so too must Kanders,” by Abdullah Shihipar MPH’20 in the Jan. 27 issue of The Herald. It represents yet another example of self-righteous virtue-signaling by a Brown student.

In the first place, to characterize Andrew Reed’s ’21 op-ed as a “defense” of Warren Kanders ’79 P’23 misses his point a great deal.

Mr. Reed engages in an informed and intelligent debate about the ethics of the use of tear gas and acknowledges the multi-faceted nature of the subject. In doing so, he makes full use of the privilege of the academic and pastoral environment afforded by the University he has chosen to attend. This environment is what Mr. Reed is defending, not Mr. Kanders himself nor the debate around his business activities.

Mr. Shihipar has also chosen to participate in that environment. Nevertheless he seems to want to join the ranks of those who would seek to enforce their own perspective over those held by others. Worse still, by criticizing Mr. Kanders in this way, it appears that Mr. Shihipar echoes some of the sentiments of the so-called activists of “Decolonize This Place” who have very publicly been one of Mr. Kanders’ main detractors. It was DTP’s rallying call to “Fuck the Police” that has been accused of contributing to the indefensible attempted assassination of two Bronx police officers two weeks ago in the wake of their most recent protest “J31.”

Last year, President Christina Paxson P’19 set out Brown’s gift acceptance policy in a sage and balanced manner, following the burgeoning demands of a prejudiced minority of student activists who saw fit to unilaterally appoint themselves as the moral police of the student body’s conscience. According to that policy’s principles, Mr. Kanders’ donations more than meet the specified standard, which states that “acceptance of a gift does not imply nor mean that the University endorses or approves of the donor’s views, opinions, businesses or activities.” Mr. Shihipar seems unable to grasp that all donations require compromise and invite debate. Given how certain he is that the University should reject Mr. Kanders’ money, perhaps he can explain whose should be accepted that would not present a moral quandary.

To live in a society that protects everyone’s right to free speech is not a matter of luck, but rather the result of a history of standing up to the overbearing clamor of mob opinion over those of others. An institution like Brown passionately promotes a fair and open platform for intelligent debate over life and society’s hard choices; the viewpoint Mr. Shihipar expresses in his letter diverges from this ethos. If the University is to rigorously fulfill its mission to educate and prepare “students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation,” it should insist that their arguments rest on more than a puerile desire to jump aboard any old popular bandwagon that passes by.

Hugh Warrender ’90

Correction: A previous version of this letter was published with a headline referencing "Defending Kanders donations" where it should have said "Criticizing Kanders donations." It also identified Warrender as the current Head of International Sales at Renaissance Investment Management, when this is in fact his former position, not current position. The Herald regrets the errors.

Clarification: A previous version of this letter read that "Mr. Shihipar chooses to endorse the sentiments of the so-called activists of 'Decolonize this Place'" when it is more accurate to say that it appears that Mr. Shihipar echoes some of this group's sentiments.


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